One has to suffer from pain in the neck to understand a pain in the neck. I mean, there is no simpler way of describing it, other than inflicting it severely upon whoever asks you this dumb question!
But nowadays I look with great empathy towards people wearing a choker-type cervical collar-like device in public because I am a long-time sufferer of painful neck myself and I can understand what desperation must have spurred this action.
With many of us getting increasingly inclined towards alternative treatments for various sicknesses, the pharmaceutical companies are having a blast. And the latest to arrive in the ‘sure cure’ field is a fully contoured, and orthopaedically approved, ‘medi-pillow’.
After years of living with a painful ‘stiff neck’, I was the first to spot the large advertisement in the local paper. But when I called the listed number, I was informed that the chemist shop that had the wonder pillow was located in downtown Lisbon.
With grim determination, my husband and I set off towards our destination and, a couple of hours later, we were lost in the maze and one-way lanes of the unfamiliar city. By sheer strength of will, we crawled in and out of the confusing streets and finally spotted the signboard on the opposite side of Alfaite de Alegria, which translates to mean ‘Joy Tailor’.
Paulo at the ‘farmácia’ was having his evening cuppa and was not in a mood to talk. He took his time sipping and swallowing the dark brew, all the while studying us without speaking. Then he casually ambled across, almost in a slow motion, and finally, he looked up, and immediately recognized the paper cutting I passed him.
“You want to see the contour pillow?” he asked in a Portuguese-accented British English.
“The medical pillow,” I said.
“Same thing,” he beamed.
“You, a pain in the neck?” he inquired, looking straight at me.
“She gets a pain in the neck,” my husband corrected.
“Same thing,” he beamed again.
Next, he disappeared behind a door marked ‘não admissão’ and left us in utter silence. A few minutes later, he emerged carrying a rectangular packet with colourful graphic designs on it.
“Made in England, see?” Paulo showed us the label.
“Englishmen suffer from arthritis, rheumatism, spondylitis, back pain and stiff neck all the time. This takes care of everything and the aches and pains just disappear. Believe me, it should actually be called a magic pillow,” Paulo gave us his marketing spiel.
“Moreover, it is very good for migraine also. You, a pain in the head?” he asked my spouse this time.
“She’s the one who gets all this weird stuff. I don’t know what a headache feels like!” my husband boasted.
Paulo then transferred all his attention towards me. He pointed out the neck prop-up curve on one side of the pillow, and the contoured depression on the other that helped support the spine, while lying on the back.
“Just use it for four continuous days without fail and you’ll notice the difference on the fifth day itself,” Paulo ordered me.
“See for yourself how miraculous it is and you will thank me forever afterwards,” he kept talking while I did the payment.
“And you,” he said, shaking my spouse by the hand.
“You just give me a call if she is still a pain in the neck,” he chuckled.
Nickunj Malik’s journalistic career began when she walked into the office of Khaleej Times newspaper in Dubai thirty-one years ago and got the job. Since then, her articles have appeared in various newspapers all over the world. She now resides in Portugal and is married to a banker who loves numbers more than words.